Andy Ruiz Jr. and Anthony Joshua have been hit with criticism for agreeing to have their highly-anticipated rematch in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia on Dec. 7.
Joshua's Matchroom Boxing promoter, Eddie Hearn, took the time Monday to defend that decision.
"There was a lot of talk about where this fight would be held. Would it be back at Madison Square Garden? Would it be at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff?" Hearn said at The Savoy hotel in London, where he held a short press conference to offer an explanation.
"We have to realize that there is another world out there outside of Cardiff and Madison Square Garden and we have an obligation to grow the sport of boxing to new areas, to new regions," Hearn continued moments later. "And to me, this event could change boxing forever because if Saudi Arabia is going to invest in these type of fights — with the population that they have, with the potential to grow the sport of boxing — you could be seeing a big change in the dynamics of the sport and that’s something that really, truly excites me."
Hearn added that Matchroom Boxing spoke with outlets such as Formula 1, the World Boxing Super Series and World Wrestling Entertainment, who all held successful events in Saudi Arabia, for feedback, and that it was all positive. The WBSS' experience there and Amir Khan's TKO over Billy Dib last month at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah only bolstered Hearn's confidence that Saudi Arabia would be an apt host.
"We already knew that Saudi Arabia were for real, we already knew they were investing in the sport of boxing and that was something very important to us," he said.
Hearn confirmed that "both fighters have signed for this rematch fight" and that "all the governing bodies have been told and confirmed by both sides." He also mentioned that there are plans to possibly add seats to the open-air stadium in Diriyah for the rematch, taking it from 12,000 to 16,000 due to the demand.
Hearn revealed that Ruiz, the unified world heavyweight champion, and Joshua will embark on a world media tour during the first week of September, making stops at Saudi Arabia, London and New York City.
Ruiz pulled off a massive upset June 1 at Madison Square Garden, where he dropped Joshua four times toward a stunning seventh-round TKO to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the world.